Pine-cone party hats, a camping trip gone awry, and three creative compatriots make for a rollicking read-aloud, perfect for...

SURPRISE!

A story about a woodland party that offers a surprise to all the guests!

There is an oft-quoted saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Bear, Raccoon, and Squirrel suffer from that dreaded malaise, long-standing pals that they are. It’s not so easy to make new friends, they soon discover. So what will save our heroes from ennui? Why, the arrival of unexpected humans from the city, of course! And what would new city friends like? Why, a surprise welcome party, of course! Bear, Raccoon, and Squirrel get right to work on assembling food, entertainment, and decorations, all “splendid,” of course. But though the surprise doesn’t go as planned—a whole double-page spread proclaiming “SURPRISE!” is indeed unexpected for these urban campers—sometimes that can be the best solution of all for the friends. Watercolor-and-gouache illustrations, finished digitally, perfectly capture the charm and whimsy of this sylvan tale of friendships new and old. Eagle-eyed readers will catch the humorous origins of these party elements, and the comic-book–style speech bubbles add an additional level of humor and drama. The author’s decision to include a family of color adds a nice detail of daily diversity to this animal-filled tale.

Pine-cone party hats, a camping trip gone awry, and three creative compatriots make for a rollicking read-aloud, perfect for summer campfires. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-13919-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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